Name some things that discourage you in your teaching ministry.
Name some things that cause you to have joy in your teaching ministry.
In most instances the things that are discouraging to us are circumstances, things that happen. This could be student conduct, parent conduct, working conditions, or any number of occurrences. In most instances these are things that involve emotional reactions. With some people, whatever is happening at this particular moment controls their whole being. When we focus on the immediate, it can sometimes become very discouraging.
As those involved in ministry, as believers, we must move beyond letting our circumstances govern our lives. We have an excellent guide for doing this in Paul’s letter to the Philippians. This is a letter of a spiritual father, sharing with his spiritual children how to possess true joy in life.
We need to note a little background here. If Paul was looking for happiness in his ministry, things weren’t going too well. II Corinthians 11:24-28 gives an account of horrendous situations in Paul’s life that included physical, emotional, and psychological pain. These events would be discouraging. But they didn’t control Paul’s life. Some things that bring about discouragement in the teaching ministry could be avoided, but many just go with the territory. The key is not being controlled by the circumstances. How did Paul deal with these circumstances in his life? He was confident God was in control, and he was in God’s will.
How did Paul combat circumstances?
A servant at heart.In Philippians 1:1 Paul declares himself to be a servant (doulas)– a bond servant or one bound to another. He was bound to the ministry by a constraining love for God. Why are we in the ministry? Why are we teachers? It should be because of our love for God. Some are teachers not because they are called, but rather for various other reasons. These teachers are usually controlled by their circumstances, looking for circumstances to bring them happiness, not necessarily joy.
Joyful memories and the big picture. We also see in 1:3-6 and again in 4:1, these people were Paul’s former “students” that were now growing in the Lord and participating in the Lord’s work. They were growing from what Paul had started. Sometimes when things aren’t going well, we need to look at the big picture. Look at the former students who have gone on and are doing well. Remember, in many instances, what we are doing is planting seeds that will come to fruition later on.
A ministry heart.What was going to bring joy to Paul’s heart? We can get a glimpse of what brought joy to Paul’s heart in 1:9-11 and 2:1-5: to see his students grow, to continue to learn. For them to mature as believers brought joy to Paul’s heart. A ministry heart doesn’t see a classroom of students, but rather a classroom of lives. One of the evidences of a ministry heart is a “Christ-like attitude” (2:1-5). Note particularly verse 4. Not focusing on ourselves, but rather on the needs of others. This deals with selfishness, self-centeredness. This is not being driven by what we want in our classroom, necessarily, but what is best for our students.
Progress not perfection.Paul admits in chapter 3:12-13 his imperfections. He makes it clear that it is progress that works as a plan for our lives and our ministry. Things are obviously not always going to go as we would like in our ministries. We can’t let these setbacks and difficulties dominate our lives and ministries. There are going to be disappointments, and sometimes we are going to become frustrated. That is when we need to look at the big picture and remember, the plan is progress not perfection. We need to always keep our eye on the goal, progress. Academic and spiritual.
How did Paul maintain joy in the ministry?
An attitude of rejoicing.All throughout Paul’s letter, we see the words joyand rejoice. We also see multiple references to Jesus (over 40 times). The clear message Paul has for the believers at Philippi and for us in our classrooms is that Christ is the reason for true joy, not the circumstances of life around us (4:4). In the original language this is a command. We are to look for the things that help us enjoy life, to enjoy our ministry. We are all going to experience circumstances in our ministry that are not enjoyable, but even then there are plenty of things to be joyful about. Think of God’s goodness, His blessing.
Contentment in your ministry.Paul refused to allow circumstances to control his attitude (4:11). Regardless of what was happening in his life, he could find contentment in Christ and his ministry (again, the big picture). That doesn’t mean that Paul didn’t care what went on around him. Contentment is not indifference. In this context it refers to being at peace in Christ’s sufficiency. This is understanding that circumstances are temporary.
Joy and God’s plan.Notice in 4:17 what Paul’s ministry desire was. He was not measuring his ministry on the temporal circumstances (gifts) of the immediate, but rather the joy of seeing the fruit of ministry carried out through God’s plan.
If your goal for ministry is happiness, you are setting yourself up for failure and disappointment. If your goal for ministry is scriptural joy, you will find yourself blessed beyond measure.